Sunday, 23 October 2016

Update On Reading's Two New Swimming Pools

An update on major plans to build two new swimming pools in Reading will be presented at the next meeting of the Council's Policy Committee on Monday, 31st October.

The update report provides a timetable for the procurement and delivery of modern new leisure and swimming facilities at both Palmer Park and land at Rivermead by 2020. These will replace ageing and expensive-to-run facilities at Central Pool and Arthur Hill.
The New Arthur Hill Pool: An example of a 6 lane 25m pool
The timetable shows the award for the leisure contract would be in place by early 2018, construction would begin in the summer of 2018 and the two new pools would be open for public use early in 2020.
Plans for two new pools were first announced by Reading Borough Council in November last year as the Council moves to provide modern and much-improved facilities for swimmers and other pool and leisure users in the town.
The Council last week confirmed the closure of Arthur Hill pool in east Reading from December 19th. The cost of bringing the building up to an acceptable standard, combined with estimated running costs over the next 3 years, amounts to more than £1 million. A capital receipt for the sale of the site will contribute to modern new swimming facilities at Palmer Park.
The new 6-lane 25-metre community pool would be physically linked to existing leisure facilities in Palmer Park, creating a modern new multi sports hub for the east of the borough
Local residents have indicated they wish this to be called "The New Arthur Hill Pool".
The Policy report also outlines the plans to replace Central Pool with a new competition pool at the Rivermead site. The Council's minimum specification for this is a modern 8 lane, 25 metre competition standard pool. Unlike any other pool in Berkshire, the proposal is also to include diving provision at the new facility, as well as hosting a range of indoor sports.
The proposals for both the new pools are subject to Planning Permission.
In order to minimise costs and drive the best possible value for money, both the Palmer Park and new Rivermead sports facilities would be delivered and managed by a development partner specialising in leisure provision. 
The Council has appointed a dedicated project manager and a leisure specialist consultancy to support and advise on the procurement process. The plan is to award a contract that encompasses the design, build, operation and management of the facilities.
Councillor Paul Gittings, Reading Borough Council's Lead Member for Culture and Sport, said:
"The publication this week of a definitive timetable clearly illustrates this Council's commitment to delivering two new purpose built swimming pools for Reading. In the case of Palmer Park, a 6 lane community pool would be added to existing leisure facilities creating a modern new multi-sports facility for east Reading. On land at Rivermead, a brand new competition pool will be provided and this will be the only facility in Berkshire that will include dedicated diving provision, as well as a range of other indoor sports on site.
"At a time of unprecedented Government cuts to our budget, building two new pools is ambitious and a major commitment on the part of the Council, but we feel very strongly that people have the right to expect modern new sports facilities. The new facilities will be delivered by a development partner who will be identified through a detailed procurement process and that partner will also be responsible for the day to day management of the sites.
"The Council this week had to take the very difficult decision to close Arthur Hill pool, which was being subsidised by more than £100,000 a year. Realistically only a huge investment would have allowed it to remain open and the budget challenge we face means we are no longer in a position to invest money in ageing facilities which would only have a limited lifespan. Instead, we are choosing to invest in modern new sports facilities which residents will be able to use for many years to come.
"The temporary pool which will open at Rivermead will help plug the gap pending the opening of the two new pools. Temporary pools of this kind are of a high standard and have successfully been used in other parts of the country."
Reading Borough Council has made more than £65 million of savings since 2011 as a result of Government cuts and increased demands on services. Latest estimates are that more than £41 million worthy of savings still need to be made by 2020.
Reference: Policy Committee report at (Item 11).

Friday, 21 October 2016

Monday, 17 October 2016

Women drag last equal pay claim council to court, says UNISON

Reading Council - still fighting low paid women
Press statement by UNISON, 17 October 2016
Reading council – the only local authority in England and Wales never to settle an equal pay claim – will today (Monday) be challenged in court by more than 60 women owed over £1.5m because they were paid less than their male colleagues for years, says their union UNISON.
The women – mostly care workers, cooks and administrators – are angry that seven years on from the council’s acceptance it had broken equal pay laws, none of them have received a penny in backdated pay.
UNISON says that although the council has set aside £9m to settle its equal pay obligations, it has instead been using the cash to balance its budget.
One of the women is owed as much as £47,000, with her remaining colleagues due an average of £10-15,000 each, says UNISON.
UNISON has accused Reading council of dragging its feet, and rather than doing the right thing by paying up, has chosen instead to shell out more than £800,000 on lawyers in an attempt to delay settling its equal pay debts.
But today at an employment tribunal in the town, UNISON will argue that because so much time has already passed, the low-paid women shouldn’t have to wait a moment longer for the wages they are owed.
The council has taken so long with these equal pay claims that one of the claimants has died since the case was lodged.
The women’s case is based on the fact that Reading council was employing men doing equivalent jobs to them but paying the men substantially more.
Commenting on the tribunal, UNISON south east regional secretary Maggi Ferncombe said: “Reading council has known for many years it was guilty of treating its low-paid male and female employees very differently.
“But rather than cough up the cash owed when it had the chance, the local authority has instead chosen to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on expensive lawyers trying to avoid settling the case.
“The council’s actions are nothing short of immoral. The stress of the last seven years has taken its toll upon many of the women, who will be hoping that today really is the beginning of the end.
“Seven years is way too long for anyone to have to wait for wages that are rightfully theirs. Hopefully Reading council will today see sense and pay the women the money they are due.”
Notes to editors:
- The tribunal – at 30-31 Friar Street, Reading RG1 1DX – is expected to last all week. At 9.30am on Monday morning the women will be staging a protest at the council’s failure to pay them the wages they are due.
- These claims arose because Reading council previously had a system of paying bonuses to staff in manual occupations, and they were predominantly men. The bonuses were not available to women doing jobs of equal value. Some of the women have claims dating back as far as 2003, which run up until 2011 when Reading council introduced a new pay and grading system.
- Today is the third time the Reading equal pay case has been the subject of a tribunal hearing since 2009.
Media contacts:
Jenny Mason T: 01483 406513 M: 07534 247182 E:
Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E:
Alan Weaver T:  0207 121 5555 M: 07939 143310 E: